I believe in the power of the mind. My brain is a fortress and a God-like machine; I give assignments to it and I know that it will complete the task. I grew up in a dictatorship and my parents taught me how to use my imagination to escape the straitjacket of our everyday life, how to not let my brain be washed. I loved math and chemistry and went on to study molecular biology; I would read hundreds of pages of formulas and descriptions and trusted my brain to sort, compare, organize and remember them. I felt like there was a contract between the two of us, my mind and I: I will feed you information, give you sleep and nourishment and you, my brain, like the ideal servant, will always return fruitful ideas, faithful memories and inspiring dreams. He was always available, loving and protective like a parent, rewarding like a multitalented child. I learned how to understand its subtle hints and elegant requests, usually formulated as emotions – longings and desires and curiosities – or as intuitions, sometimes so powerful and clear that it was like somebody was whispering things in my ear. I respectfully listened to what my brain was saying to me, and found out that it could do some other amazing things – it could create staggeringly beautiful images and put together heartbreaking stories. If I trusted my mind – as when you trust somebody enough to let yourself fall back into their arms, certain that they would catch you – it would work some magic on reality and give back to me fully articulated phrases, sometimes even complete visual scenes. I became a filmmaker instead of a scientist so my brain could express itself in all its splendor. I am using these immodest superlatives because to me my mind is not something I possess, it is a gift that I am constantly in awe of and whose fragility scares and humbles me. When I go to sleep, I have a date with my mind, and it treats me to dreams – some sweet, some terrifying, some hauntingly intense. I spend a lot of time just thinking, and the act of thinking and imagining makes me exhausted and euphoric as if I had traveled through an enchanted foreign land. A mind can shape and even save people’s lives – I know that from political prisoners who did the impossible to maintain their minds sane and sharp while their bodies were being tortured, and the power of their thoughts was the only thing that got them out of labor camps or isolation cells alive. I can also see it when my young students understand a difficult concept and something behind their eyes leaps with joy. And I can see it in the – yes – erotic attraction of a beautiful, strong, creative, flexible, rigorous mind – I always fell in love with somebody’s brain first. I believe in the power of the mind, this wonder of wonders that can make us feel like gods – but more importantly, it makes us all richly, gloriously, humbly human.
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